The annual NFL free agency rush is heating up and will reach its boiling point on March 20, when the new league year officially begins. But in the weeks leading up to that date, plenty of free agents have already been scooped up by other teams or marked with the franchise tag by their current team, which can give that franchise the exclusive rights to keep them for at least another season or to trade them.
We’ve looked at the free agents that were still available as of midnight on March 16 and ranked the best ones; you won’t find guys like Amari Cooper and Shaq Barrett on here, since they had already inked deals by the time we made the list. These are players that can make an immediate difference for any team in the league and fans are all hoping their general manager will get in on the bidding.
30. Jimmy Smith
Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith has been dogged by injuries for his entire NFL career, which has consisted of nine seasons with the Ravens so far. As a result, he only started in five games in 2019 and has missed a total of 15 games in the past three seasons. However, when Smith is playing, he’s effective, averaging three picks and 43 solo tackles per 16 games over the past three seasons. It’s going to be interesting to see who is willing to take a chance on this 31-year-old cover man who has plenty of upside when he’s healthy.
29. Prince Amukamara
Cornerback Prince Amukamara won a Super Bowl during his rookie season with the Giants in 2011 but has played for two other teams since then, including the last three seasons with the Bears. The 30-year-old has averaged an interception and a forced fumble, along with 53 solo tackles per 16 games in the past three seasons. He’s missed only two games in the past two seasons and seems to have plenty left in the tank for any team that wants his services since the Bears decided to move on by cutting him.
28. Trae Waynes
Former first-round pick Trae Waynes has spent his entire five-season career with the Vikings so far but that could change this offseason. The 27-year-old cornerback — we promise there are other positions on this list — has seen his numbers dip a bit from his career-best marks in 2017 but he’s been reliable for 53 solo tackles and two turnovers caused per 16 games in the past three years. Whatever team ends up landing Waynes is hoping to see him put together his first Pro Bowl season.
Update: He will join the Cincinnati Bengals next season after inking a deal that will net him $42 million over three years.
27. Graham Glasgow
After four seasons with the Lions, former University of Michigan star Graham Glasgow seems poised to finally play football in another state. The 27-year-old offensive lineman has missed just a single game in the past three years and has proved himself a versatile player. In his time with the Lions, he’s played both guard and center for extended periods of time, depending on what the team needed. During his college years, Glasgow got busted for a pair of DUIs but has apparently stayed out of trouble since turning pro.
26. Javon Hargrave
In four seasons in the NFL so far — all spent with the Steelers — nose tackle Javon Hargrave has missed only one game, which was during his rookie season. He’s yet to become a Pro Bowler but, in the past three seasons, Hargrave has averaged 29 solo tackles and six tackles for a loss per 16 games. The 27-year-old workhorse can clearly make a big difference for any team that wants to sign him, since all signs point toward Pittsburgh moving on.
Update: Hargrave just signed a $39 million, 3-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
25. Dante Fowler
Linebacker Dante Fowler is set to test the free agent market for the first time in his career, since the Los Angeles Rams decided not to use the franchise tag on him. The 25-year-old has been in the league for four seasons, including much of the last two in L.A. In the past three years, he’s missed just a single game and has averaged 10 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks and two forced fumbles per 16 games played. Those figures were helped when Fowler put up career-high numbers across the board in 2019. He should have plenty of bidders.
24. Jameis Winston
It’s so tough to get a handle on Jameis Winston and what his actual value in the NFL can be. He puts up some of the most incredible, video game-like statistics we’ve ever seen at the quarterback position but he’s so reckless with the football that his turnover numbers are equally amazing. Winston led the NFL in passing yards in 2019, putting up a ridiculous 5,109 yards, but he also threw a league-high 30 interceptions. In the past three seasons, Winston has averaged 4,642 passing yards, 28 touchdown tosses and 22 picks per 16 games played.
The risk is very high but so is the reward and it appears the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to try someone else after five seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see where this 26-year-old gunslinger lands.
23. Eli Apple
Cornerback Eli Apple has made a name for himself in the past few seasons, but has it been enough to stand out in a crowded position during this period of free agency? The pass defender has been with the Saints for most of the past two seasons, starting in 25 games and making 58 combined tackles in that span. After hauling in a pair of interceptions in 2018, Apple didn’t grab one last season, which hurt his value a bit. But at 24 years old, there seems to be plenty left for Apple to prove, no matter where he lands.
22. Anthony Harris
Many NFL analysts were surprised when the Vikings used the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris but it shows he has some real value in the league. The 28-year-old defender has spent his entire five-season career with Minnesota so far and could be staying or may be used in a trade by the team. In the past three seasons, Harris has missed just three games and has proven himself as a turnover magnet. In 2019, he tied for the NFL lead by catching six interceptions, which was a career-best figure.
21. Kenyan Drake
Running back Kenyan Drake came alive in the last half of the 2019 season, setting himself up for a nice payday during free agency. He’s been in the league for four seasons and after being traded to the Cardinals halfway through last season, he ended up averaging 80.4 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry and chipping in eight touchdowns in as many games. Those were by far career-best marks for Drake — who has averaged just 43.4 rushing yards and seven touchdowns per 16 games in the past three seasons overall — but show that he could be poised to take off.
The Cardinals elected to use the transition tag on the 26-year-old rusher, and after trading away David Johnson it appears they may keep him around.
20. Emmanuel Sanders
Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders nearly won his second Super Bowl last season after playing his first year with the 49ers. He came up short there but he’s been reliable for 800-plus receiving yards in the past two seasons, coupled with about five touchdown catches, making him a solid veteran addition to a receiving corps. San Francisco is taking its time in dealing with Sanders, who is now 33, so it appears likely that he could land elsewhere.
19. Blake Martinez
Linebacker Blake Martinez will likely be playing for a new team in 2020, which will be a first in his four-season career that’s been spent with the Packers to this point. He’s been a big part of that club’s defense, not missing a single start in the past three seasons. In that time, Martinez has averaged 95 solo tackles and eight tackles for a loss per season, with 2019 seeing him modestly improving in most stat categories. The 26-year-old defender seems like a guy with a lot of upside.
18. Cory Littleton
In many ways, linebacker Cory Littleton’s career has been similar to that of Blake Martinez. Both guys are 26 years old, have played in all 48 games over the past three seasons and are entering free agency for the first time after steadily building reputations as reliable defenders. Littleton has spent his time with the Rams but appears to be on the move after averaging more than 129 combined tackles in the past two seasons as a full-time starter. The 2018 Pro Bowler can make a big difference for any team that lands him.
17. Robby Anderson
Wide receiver Robby Anderson has been remarkably consistent over the past three seasons, even while playing in the less-than-consistent Jets offense. The 26-year-old rising star has been good for about 800 receiving yards per year and roughly 50 yards per game for the past three campaigns without fail. He’s also only missed two games in that span and made all 16 starts in 2019. Jets fans have to be hoping the team will find a way to re-sign this mark of reliability.
16. Bud Dupree
The Steelers were quick to use their franchise tag on linebacker Bud Dupree this offseason. The 27-year-old has spent all five of his NFL seasons with the team and will likely be back in the black and yellow again in 2020. In the past three seasons, Dupree has missed only a single game and gave the team career-best numbers in 2019, including 68 combined tackles and 16 tackles for a loss. But it was his 11.5 sacks last year that would make him a target on the market this year.
15. Matt Judon
Another gifted linebacker that got the franchise tag this offseason was Matt Judon. The Ravens used the tag on this rising star, who has spent all four seasons of his career with the team so far. The 27-year-old defender hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons and made his first Pro Bowl in 2019. That honor came after he forced four fumbles, racked up 33 hits on opposing quarterbacks and earned 9.5 sacks. Ravens fans would love to see him wearing purple and black come next season.
14. Logan Ryan
Cornerback Logan Ryan has been in the playoffs in all but one of his seven seasons in the NFL so far, thanks to tenures with the Patriots and Titans. In the past three seasons with Tennessee, Ryan has missed just three games and he had a career year in 2019, setting him up nicely in free agency. Last season, Ryan started every game for the first time in his career, earning 113 combined tackles and snagging four interceptions. The 29-year-old pass defender would make a nice addition to any secondary if only for his karate-kicking skills.
13. Melvin Gordon
Two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon has been nearly impossible to get a good gauge on but we are still high on his potential as a lead rusher. After five seasons with the Chargers, the 26-year-old running back seems poised to play elsewhere in 2020, ideally somewhere that he won’t have to share touches with someone like Austin Ekeler, who frankly made him look bad in 2019. In the past three seasons, Gordon has averaged a stellar 1,041 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns per 16 games. Those numbers are stout but inconsistency has been the name of the game with Gordon thus far.
12. A.J. Green
Putting A.J. Green outside the top 10 is probably preposterous but his playing time has been so limited in the past few years that it’s tough to know what to expect. The seven-time Pro Bowler is undoubtedly one of the best wide receivers in football but he missed all of 2019 and nearly half of the 2018 season with injuries, meaning there will be plenty of rust to shake off. However, the Bengals, with whom he’s spent all of his eight seasons so far, were quick to use the franchise tag on the 31-year-old wide out.
It’s tough to blame them but will Green be able to get back to the kind of numbers he put up from 2016-2018, when he averaged a remarkable 1,251 receiving yards per 16 games played?
11. Joe Thuney
In our opinion, Joe Thuney is the best offensive lineman who is up for free agency in 2020. He’s spent all four seasons of his NFL career with the Patriots so far and has never missed a start in that time. He’s been on the line for both of the team’s Super Bowls since 2016, helping keep Tom Brady off the grass. The Patriots used their franchise tag on Thuney, 27, just days before the new league year started, giving them first rights to keep him another season.
10. James Bradberry
Among the litany of cornerbacks that are still floating around in free agency as of this writing, we like James Bradberry the most. In the past three seasons, he’s missed just a single game and collected a career-high three interceptions in 2019. He’s also been good for about 70 combined tackles each season in that span. The 26-year-old cover man has spent all four seasons with the Panthers so far but all signs point to him going elsewhere in 2020 and hopefully making his first Pro Bowl.
Update: Bradberry has signed to the New York Giants with a three-year, $45 million contract.
9. Philip Rivers
A couple of seasons after being an MVP candidate and putting the Chargers in a position to be one of the league’s elite teams, the fortunes of Philip Rivers have changed drastically. He’s now set to become a homeless quarterback for the first time in his 16-season career, which had all been spent with that one franchise. A picture of consistency, Rivers has never missed a start in his career and has been good for 4,479 passing yards and 28 touchdown throws per 16 games for the past three seasons, which have been some of the best of his career.
Yet the 38-year-old veteran has famously struggled in the playoffs and has thrown more picks than the other top-tier quarterbacks on the free agent market this season. Still, it’s tough to imagine him not making any team he joins into a contender.
Update: ESPN is reporting that Rivers has been signed to the Indianapolis Colts for a one-year, $25 million deal.
8. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The man with arguably the most fun name to say in all of football may re-sign with the Bears but as of this writing, he’s still on the market. The former Pro Bowl safety has six seasons of NFL experience and had yet another great season in 2019, when he snagged two picks, recovered two fumbles and had his first career pick six. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 27, has been good for 69 solo tackles and four forced turnovers per 16 games for the past three seasons. Throw in the fact that he’s never missed a game in his career and you’ve got a great free agent grab.
7. Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney saw his production slip a bit in 2019, causing him to miss his first Pro Bowl since 2016, but he’s still an instant difference-maker. The 27-year-old defensive end has missed just four games in the past three seasons, split with the Texans and Seahawks. In that time, he’s averaged a stout 16 tackles for a loss and three fumbles forced per 16 games played. Whoever lands Clowney this offseason, they’ll be hoping the paltry three sacks he earned in 2019 were just a blip and not a prediction of what’s to come.
6. Everson Griffen
A four-time Pro Bowler, Everson Griffen is one of the most decorated players up for free agency in 2020. The defensive end has spent 10 seasons with the Vikings and turned down an offer from them this offseason, meaning he’ll be looking elsewhere. In 2019, Griffen started in 15 games, made 41 combined tackles and earned eight sacks in what was another Pro Bowl season. This is a guy who has consistently averaged 10 sacks per 16 games played over the past three seasons, making him a lock to get a nice deal from someone.
5. Chris Jones
When NFL.com was ranking the 2020 free agent class, it had defensive tackle Chris Jones in second place. It’s no wonder the Chiefs used their franchise tag on him just months after winning the Super Bowl. Jones has been a major part of the team’s defense for the past four seasons, missing just three games since 2017 and separating himself as an elite pass rusher. The 25-year-old star has racked up 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons and has averaged 11 of them per 16 games for the past three seasons.
4. Derrick Henry
There’s no question that Derrick Henry is the best free agent rusher on the market in 2020 and that’s why the Titans quickly marked him with the franchise tag. The 26-year-old workhorse has missed just a single game in the past three years and has arguably been the best running back in the league for the better part of two seasons. From 2016-2019, Henry averaged 1,138 rushing yards per 16 games and 71.1 rushing yards every time the Titans took the field.
Last season, he led the league in rushing yards, yards per game and rushing touchdowns, landing him on his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro squads just in time for free agency.
3. Drew Brees
As of this writing, Drew Brees still hadn’t come to terms with the Saints but all signs point to him re-signing with the franchise he has spent 14 seasons leading. The 41-year-old legend has been having some of the best years of his 19-season career recently, averaging a remarkable 4,307 passing yards per 16 games in the past three seasons. In that same span, the 13-time Pro Bowler has averaged 31 touchdowns passes to just six interceptions per 16 games, resulting in a passer rating of 111.3 since 2016.
The 2019 season saw Brees miss five games — the most he’d sat out since 2003 — but Saints fans would be crazy to want him playing against them.
Update: The NFL says Brees has signed with the Saints for a two-year, $50 million payout.
2. Tom Brady
For the first time since he came into the league in 2000, the GOAT will be playing for a team other than the Patriots. Tom Brady has made it official that his free agency will take him elsewhere, setting up one of the more intriguing bidding scenarios in NFL history. Will the 42-year-old icon be able to keep up his stunning production under a new offensive system after 20 seasons in the same one?
Since 2016, Brady hasn’t missed a single game, has won two Super Bowls and has averaged 4,330 passing yards per 16 games, which is better than Drew Brees. He’s led every one of his teams to the playoffs since 2009 and has won a Super Bowl ring in every even-numbered season since 2014, making him due again in 2020.
Update: The NFL has confirmed that Brady is moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a deal worth $30 million a year.
1. Dak Prescott
In its ranking of the 2020 free agents, NFL.com singled out Dak Prescott as the best and we have to agree. His averages over the past three seasons are right there with Brady and Brees — plus, he’s only 26 years old. The Cowboys wisely used their exclusive franchise tag to keep the rights to Prescott but his deal has yet to be finalized as of this writing. Since 2016, Prescott hasn’t missed a game and has averaged 4,037 passing yards per 16 games while maintaining a passer rating of 94.8. His price tag should be sky-high.